Best Heating Systems in Old Houses (Updated)

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When it comes to heating systems old houses often have limited options. Their design, layout, existing systems, and construction pose a challenge for any HVAC contractor. These factors often complicate installation as well as temperature control. In this blog, we’ll discuss heating systems old houses use to gain comfort from room to room.

Boiler Heating Systems in Old Houses

When modern indoor heating first made its way to homes, radiator systems were quite common. Many homes built in the 18th century, such as Cincinnati’s many beautiful historic residences, have this equipment.

Radiator systems use a boiler to heat water. It pumps hot water through a network of pipes to radiator units in various living areas. When the hot water heats the radiator’s metal surfaces, they emit radiant heat to the surrounding areas. This is especially helpful to combat heat rising to the high ceiling heights in older homes.

To improve the performance and efficiency of radiators and boilers, repairs and upgrades are often necessary. In many cases, existing radiators remain in good condition. All they need is to install a new boiler to deliver reliable, more efficient heating.

New technology such as modulating-condensing boilers deliver improved efficiency ratings over older boiler equipment. These modern units only heat the amount of water necessary for the home’s heating needs instead of all the unit’s water at once.

Ductless Heating Systems in Old Houses

As far as it goes for heating systems, old houses weren’t built to allow room for ductwork because it didn’t exist at the time of construction. This means to add forced air cooling and heating systems, old houses need major renovations to add the distribution system needed to move conditioned air throughout the home.

In addition to the expense and disruption to the household, owners of older homes often prefer to avoid detracting from the home’s original looks, so the reduction in ceiling heights and other construction to add and conceal ducts is a no-go.

The heating systems old houses often choose today are ductless, so there is no need for ducts at all! Ductless heating systems, or ductless mini splits, are heat pumps. They consist of an outdoor condenser linked to one or multiple indoor air handlers through a small line set.

Instead of a noisy, inefficient window unit, ductless air handlers require only a three-inch hole in the wall. This connects the electrical and refrigerant lines to the outdoor AC compressor. This preserves the aesthetics of the home. It also speeds up installation compared to traditional ducted systems.

Homeowners choose to install the air handlers on the wall or ceiling of the rooms or zones they choose. Depending on the model, up to six air handlers may connect to a single outdoor AC compressor. Using remotes, homeowners control heating and cooling output independent of each other.

Because of this zoned heating system, old houses reduce utility costs thanks to higher efficiency equipment and targeted usage. These systems also deliver cooling, which adds the efficient air conditioning capabilities most older homes go without!

Why Choose Ductless Heating and Cooling Systems?

Ductless systems are quiet, effective, and energy efficient, and they don’t interfere with a home’s architecture. A duct free option also offers the comfort of a modern cooling system without the unsightly look of window AC units.

A ductless system brings certain benefits to older homes:

  • Fits into any home, no matter its age or configuration. Heat and cool many rooms with a different temperature set. One bedroom prefers 68 degrees at night? Another prefers 72? No problem. Set different units or zones at custom levels.
  • The openings needed in each room are minimal and unobtrusive. Installation involves a small round opening or a slotted one, whichever works best in a given room.
  • The high velocity stream of air efficiently heats or cools a room. Air comes out silently so there’s no intrusive noise.
  • Bring humidity levels down within the home. High humidity levels often damage architectural features, furniture, and flooring; plus, it makes living in the home uncomfortable. People with respiratory and certain cardiac conditions suffer greater symptoms when humidity is out of control. Ductless systems bring humidity levels down by as much as 20 percent.
  • Ductless keeps drafts down to a minimum. The gentle release of air from a ductless HVAC unit eliminates drafts common with window AC units.
  • Ductless systems are very efficient, which considerably lowers energy costs. Most models are ENERGY STAR certified.

Other Heating Systems for Older Homes

Other heating systems old houses use are high-velocity heating and cooling systems. This is a type of central HVAC system that requires ductwork, but the ducts are much smaller than the standard ducts installed in newer homes. These “mini-ducts” are more easily concealed and are able to run through narrow and existing spaces in the home.

Depending on the old house’s layout and construction, this is one of the simplest options. Because the ducts are smaller, the HVAC equipment moves air through with a greater velocity. Be advised, this creates some noise as the system runs.

Heating Systems Old Houses Need, from Apollo Home!

Apollo Home is here to help owners of Northern Kentucky’s and Cincinnati’s older homes. We’ll help you find efficient heating (and cooling!) solutions to easily integrate into historic houses.

Whether you wish to upgrade your boiler or go ductless, Apollo Home pairs you with the right system for your needs. If you need licensed electricians or plumbers we can help there too!

"Ernie & Mike did a superb job on my new furnace and A/C installation. Despite having more than a day’s work to do, they came in and stayed until the job was done. They were organized, efficient, and protected the rest of the house well. Got both furnace and A/C installed the same day. Ernie was courteous, informative, and clearly knew his job better than anyone I’ve encountered before. The units look so good guests now get The Tour of our new system. Apollo is clearly not a fly-by-night company. I would recommend them to anyone in need of a new furnace and/or A/C."
- Jerry A.
"I called Apollo because of a water leak I thought I had in our upstairs shower going into the kitchen. Robbie came and assured me everything was fine & looked at all the other plumbing. He ended up changing a few pipes for our washer & clearing a drain. He was very nice & knowledgeable with all my questions. I ended up signing up for the care plan & was very happy with my service."
- Cassandra B.
"The team at Apollo exceeded my expectations. As a business owner, my attention to the details and commitment to providing excellent service is high. From the sales rep. to the installation team, everyone’s performance was outstanding. For example, the installation team went to great lengths to protect our floors, placing floor runners and across the wood floors and up the stairs. They even were spot washing walls upon their departure. I highly recommend this company."
- Randy B.
"We scheduled an estimate AND a tune-up. We knew something was wrong with our furnace, but hoped we could make it through the rest of the season. Upon telling Bill what our furnace was doing, he warned us immediately what the possible outcome was going to be; a cracked heat exchanger. He watched the flames roll backward, tested carbon monoxide levels, which were so high they meter’s last reading was 5,600 before saying “high”. He immediately shut it down, tagged it, and explained that with levels that high and children in our home he wanted off right away. He continued his inspection and showed us via a camera that not only was it cracked in multiple places, but had holes all over it. He gave us a few options for repairing it; his knowledge as well as genuine concern was beneficial and refreshing. Luckily we also scheduled an estimator, Micah, to come too and we were able to get costs between repairing and replacing (with several options). We decided to replace with a much higher efficiency furnace and one sized properly to our home. Hands down, not only did they both provide us great service and knowledge, but without sounding dramatic, they may have saved our lives. This was our first time calling Apollo, but it won’t be our last."
- Sarah B.
"Apollo is an excellent company. I always receive great service. Alex A. was professional and friendly. He kept me informed during the process of checking my furnace and heat pump to make sure they were working properly. The company makes sure you are notified who is coming and when they are on the way. All my interactions with the company have been wonderful."
- Beverly S.



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